Tennis provides an excellent opportunity for your child to get outside and practice a wide variety of skills, such as sportsmanship, turn-taking, eye contact, and ball skills. Tennis is a great partner activity, as it can be played with one player on each side of the net (singles) or with two players on each side(doubles). Similarly, players can be rotated out, which works on waiting and patience, if there are more than 4 children who want to play with one another.
How Tennis Improves Your Child’s Muscles, Motor Skills and Coordination:
- Muscle tone: Tennis is a sport which requires constant quick muscle responses to move towards the ball. The child must stabilize her trunk and arm muscles to hold the racquet and hit the ball.
- Hand-eye coordination: The player must keep her eyes on the ball (tracking the ball on the court) in order to keep the game going (a rally) and have the best chance of scoring points. Ideally, the player is able to throw and catch a ball consistently to have the greatest success, as playing a game of catch without the racquets is a prerequisite skill to maintaining a rally.
- High energy: Tennis is physically demanding, as the player must be constantly moving during the tennis match to keep up with the ball and protect her side of the net. This requires the player to have a good amount of endurance, strength, and breathing control.
- Muscle grading: The player must be able to determine the appropriate amount of force needed to hit the tennis ball when the ball is moving, in order to return the ball to the other side of the net. For instance, when serving the tennis ball to begin the game, the player will need more force to hit the ball a longer distance, as the server is required to stand behind the baseline (farthest back). On the other hand, when the player is rallying the ball, she may want to hit the ball softly, to place the ball in a spot which will be challenging for the opponent to get to.
- Sensory: Tennis is usually played outdoors. Therefore, many sensory components are involved. For instance, the outdoor smells (e.g. grass, sunscreen, bug spray); the feel of the ball (e.g. fuzzy/rough; can get soggy/dirty/muddy if it falls into a puddle); and the environmental noises (e.g. insects, airplanes, others nearby, traffic). The player is required to take in all of these sensory components, while also staying focused on the task at hand.
Overall, tennis is a great sport for any age:
Tennis can provide both a cardiovascular and a strength workout, as the player must chase after the ball and protect her side of the net, while also stabilizing and manipulating her racquet. Tennis is a perfect sport for families to play together, and an easy way to work on sportsmanship and social skills with same aged peers. If you have any concerns about your child’s ball skills, hand-eye coordination, or bilateral skills, or any other skills mentioned above, please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist or physical therapist for further support and collaboration.